Lufthansa – Germany’s national airline, the government is its largest shareholder – is continuing to do damage control after an incident where Jews were banned from travel on the carrier. Their first two statements on the issue were so bad they’re now trying to fix things putting their CEO into play.
Lufthansa Bans Jews From Travel After Inflight Incident
Last week Lufthansa bans Jews off of a New York JFK – Frankfurt flight from continued travel for a 24 hour period, after some passengers on board didn’t comply with mask rules and other crewmember instructions.
Non-Jews violating mask rules weren’t prevented from taking their connections. And the ban included passengers who could be identified as likely Jewish, even if they hadn’t broken any rules.
The German flag carrier scapegoated Jewish passengers and practiced collective guilt. Here’s a Lufthansa representative explaining that it’s Jews that caused problems, so the airline banned Jews from travel.
Passenger: The non-Jewish people on the flight went. Why are only the Jewish people paying for other people’s crimes?
Lufthansa: Because it’s Jews coming from JFK.
…Passenger: I’m like shocked beyond, never in my adult life. I’ve never heard this.
Lufthansa: If you want to do it like this, Jewish people who were the mess, who made the problems.
Lufthansa Makes Problems Worse For Themselves With First Two Statements
The airline’s first statement was to blame the victim, saying they had simply kept non-compliant passengers off the next flight. That turned out not to be true.
Then they offered a milquetoast apology that never even used the word “Jews” and muddied the message by talking about other forms of racism.
Lufthansa’s CEO Seeks Out A Rabbi To Apologize To
Now they’re on their third try, and this time Lufthansa’s CEO found a Rabbi in Berlin to talk to, and a short clip shows him telling the rabbi that what happened is not in line with the airline’s rules. The rabbi says he found the CEO’s apology to be geniune and the two will meet in person to discuss next steps. Some employees have already been suspended.
Lufthansa Broke First Rule Of Crisis PR
This has been terrible PR. The story has spread worldwide and across major media (kudos to Dan’s Deals for breaking it and with enough leg work that it stuck and showing that Lufthansa’s initial response was inaccurate). There’s an important lesson from Patriot Games (1992) that every person in communications should know as a basic law.
- Come clean, fully, the first time: “Give them no place to go, nothing to report. No story.”
- Minimizing and downplaying makes a story worse: “There’s no sense in defusing a bomb that’s already gone off.”
Remember ‘it’s not the crime it’s the coverup’. You want a story over and done as fast as possible. If you’re going to apologize, apologize. If you’re going to acknowledge a story, do it once and fully. Otherwise you keep going back with explanations and clarifications and extend the story, making the P.R. hit even worse.